MIAMI (CN) – Seven Cuban doctors and a nurse say their government conspired with Venezuela and its state-owned oil company to hold them in a “modern form of slavery,” as Cuba barters their services for cheap Venezuelan oil. The doctors and nurse say they were put into “servitude for debt,” with their work used to “to discount … the commercial debt … of the subsidized oil supplies provided by Venezuela to Cuba.”
The doctors say that faced with precarious conditions and material needs in Cuba, they were deceived and threatened by Cuban authorities and taken by force to work in violent places in Venezuela, including the jungle and the frontier with Colombia.
The plaintiffs are a part of a mission called “Barrio Adentro.” They say they are held in captivity in crowded lodgings or in houses with families affiliated with the Venezuelan regime. They say they are under strict control, surveillance, and threats by “slave hunters”: Venezuelan security officials.
The plaintiffs say they work under an agreement between the two governments, through Petroleos de Venezuela.
The “Convenio Integral de Cooperacion” allows forced labor by doctors in exchange for 100,000 barrels of oil a day, according to the complaint.
The doctors point out that Petroleos de Venezuela’s U.S. subsidiary, CITGO, sells and refines more than $5 billion a year in oil products.
The plaintiffs say they are “living illegally as prisoners” and work without licenses to practice in Venezuela. If they protest, they are returned to Cuba and suffer severe and permanent consequences, they say.
The plaintiffs say they “escaped their bondage n Venezuela, survived a harrowing adventure, and made their way to the United States,” and live in Florida. They say they cannot get justice in Cuba or Venezuela, so they sued in Miami.
They demand punitive damages for RICO conspiracy, negligence, false imprisonment and emotional distress.
They are represented by Leonardo Canton of Coral Gables.